Atco, 1980

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Coming out of the dreck that was the disco era in the late '70s, many bands started to turn to a new sound – the “New Wave” era, if you will. Some bands had been practicing this as early as the late '70s, such as the early works of XTC. It also wasn't uncommon for bands to mix this new direction of music in with Jamaican ska beats – Madness was possibly one of the most famous practitioners of this.

Would it surprise people to find out that INXS's early sound was just like that, albeit not as heavy on the ska? Their self-titled debut effort indeed showcases that sound, and while it features a group not quite certain of where they wanted to go musically, it does show signs of promise.

It would be far, far too easy to compare this effort to any of the worldwide smashes that Michael Hutchence and crew achieved later in their career...and it would also be grossly unfair to automatically assume that the birth cries of INXS would be on the same musical level. So, we'll attempt to take this disc at face value.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Hutchence doesn't quite have the full swagger a lead singer needs at times on this disc. His vocals sometimes seem to be mixed behind the band, making it a little hard to understand him at times. I don't know if this is something that could be corrected long after the fact...but it might not be a bad idea to check out.

In Australia, INXS had success with the song “Just Keep Walking,” but, to these ears, it was not the best choice of song to release as a single. While the verses have a catchy rhythm to them, the chorus is what destroys this song for me – almost done in a spoken-singing style a la Bob Dylan (albeit without the nasal whining). Instead, they'd have been better served releasing “Learn To Smile,” quite possibly the best song on this album. Simply put, it is the “perfect storm” of good songwriting, solid musicianship, and good lyrics. Who knows, had this song been the single of choice, INXS might have broken here in the States a little earlier than they did.

INXS contains other good songs as well. “Jumping” is damned catchy, and almost makes the listener want to get out of their chair and start bouncing around to it, while “In Vain” starts off the second half of the album well. And I can't explain why I like it, but the opening track “On A Bus,” while not the strongest of the bunch, appeals to my ears as well. (What the hell...who said I had to have a reason to like everything that I do?)

For all these strengths, there are songs that flat out miss the mark, though they're far from wretched. “Roller Skating” could well be called a product of its time, and it's lightweight fluff though harmless enough, while “Newsreel Babies,” “Body Language,” and “Wishy Washy” all simply fail to live up to the promise hinted at on some of the earlier songs. And the less said about “Doctor,” the better.

In a world where people focus on albums such as Listen Like Thieves and Kick, people tend to forget that INXS had several albums before that. While INXS has a few stumbling points, it proves to be a respectable first effort, and is worth the time to search out and listen to.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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